Throughout its life Memorial Park has shown great adaptability and resilience in serving Oklahoma City residents. It looks vastly different today from its beginnings as Putnam Park in 1902. Prominent attorney and real estate developer Israel M. Putnam created the park that bore his name at the end of new the streetcar line. Originally a playground for residents of his Putnam Heights addition, the park was just open prairie in those days. But Putnam provided a boating lake, gazebo, and picnic area for residents to enjoy. As the northwest side of the city grew rapidly, this large park became an important recreation area.
As one of the oldest parks in the city, Memorial has changed and adapted alongside it. In the 1920s, the city debated the best way to honor the sacrifice of World War I soldiers such as a grand boulevard or a decorative arch near the Capitol. Finally, in 1928, it was decided the most fitting tribute would be to remake Putnam Park into Memorial Park to honor “soldiers of all wars and those of future wars.” The lake was replaced with a fountain that represents life and rejuvenation.
In the 1930s, the Shakespeare Club created the stone monument that features a bust of the great writer. Originally the concrete oval nestled in the monument was a lily pond. In the 1950s the Kiwanis Club constructed the recreation center that now houses the Boys and Girls Clubs. In the 1960s and 1970s Memorial Park took on a new character as a center for the counterculture and it was not unusual to see hundreds of young people camping, protesting and demonstrating in the park. Now one of the oldest in the city, Memorial Park has an enduring place in the hearts of Oklahoma citizens.